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Sepia-toned newspaper clipping showing side-by-side photos of Ralph Kerwineo, dressed as a man on the left and as a woman on the right.
The Tacoma Times story of Ralph Kerwineo. Chronicling America, Serial and Government Publications Division.

Historical Newspapers Reveal Hidden LGBTQ+ History

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This is a guest post by Megan Metcalf, a reference librarian in the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room.

The Library’s collections of historical newspapers uniquely illuminate the spectrum of LGBTQ+ history.

These rich resources provide a record of LGBTQ+ lives that otherwise would have gone undocumented. In these pages, one can find the history of resistance, community and, of course, love.

In a story entitled “Thirteen Years a Girl-Husband,” The Ogden Standard issue of June 13, 1914, dedicated almost an entire page to the story of Ralph Kerwineo of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Born female, Kerwineo lived as a man and even married a woman — twice.

Kerwineo was eventually outed and arrested on charges of disorderly conduct. But, on May 15, 1914, The Tacoma Times published Kerwineo’s own account of their experiences on the front page. These stories were picked up by other papers around the country. This kind of firsthand perspective is rarely available and offers a glimpse into how LGBTQ+ individuals and couples survive when their love and identities are criminalized.

Scanned image of a newspaper, with total page under the headline of "Thirteen Years a Girl-Husband," and featuring large photographs of several individuals in the story.
The Ogden Standard issue of June 13, 1914, devoting coverage to the story of Ralph Kerwineo. Chronicling America, Serial and Government Publications Division.

“Evidence of Homosexuality,” published by the Evening Star on Oct. 3, 1955, reports on a police raid on the Pepper Hill Club in Baltimore and the arrest of 162 people. The Cumberland Evening Times provided more context the same day, describing a woman who was “… convicted of assaulting policemen who tried to load her into a paddy wagon.”

This Pepper Hill raid occurred 14 years before the Stonewall riots of 1969. News coverage of this raid and similar ones allows researchers to expand the timeline of LGBTQ+ resistance, which began long before Stonewall.

More than a half-century later the Ogden newspaper’s report on Kerwineo, The New York Times described the first Pride march in a June 29, 1970, story headlined, “Thousands of Homosexuals Hold a Protest Rally in Central Park.” Newspaper coverage of Pride events through the years can include attendee estimates, photographs, quotes, names of participants or sponsoring organizations as well as locations of events.

The articles highlighted in this piece can all be found online in Chronicling America and in print or on microfilm in the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room. Many newspapers can also be accessed on

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  1. There’s so much history out there that no one knows about. Thanks for uncovering these stories!

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